Gonz ález: To talk more about the crisis in Gaza,
we go now to Boston, where we are joined by Noam Chomsky, world-renowned
political dissident, linguist, author, Institute Professor Emeritus at
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he’s taught for more than 50
years. He has written extensively about the Israel-Palestine conflict for
Goodman: Forty years ago this month, Noam
Chomsky published Peace in the Middle East?: Reflections on Justice and
Nationhood. His 1983 book, The Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel, and
the Palestinians, is known as one of the definitive works on the
Israel-Palestine conflict. Professor Chomsky joins us from Boston. Welcome back
to Democracy Now!, Noam. Please first just comment, since we haven’t spoken to
you throughout the Israeli assault on Gaza. Your comments on what has just
3. Chomsky: It’s a hideous atrocity, sadistic, vicious, murderous, totally without any credible pretext. It’s another one of the periodic Israeli exercises in what they delicately call “mowing the lawn.” That means shooting fish in the pond, to make sure that the animals stay quiet in the cage that you’ve constructed for them, after which you go to a period of what’s called “ceasefire,” which means that Hamas observes the ceasefire, as Israel concedes, while Israel continues to violate it. Then it’s broken by an Israeli escalation, Hamas reaction. Then you have period of “mowing the lawn.” This one is, in many ways, more sadistic and vicious even than the earlier ones.
4. González: And what of the pretext that Israel used to launch these attacks? Could you talk about that and to what degree you feel it had any validity?
5. Chomsky: As high Israeli officials concede, Hamas had observed the previous ceasefire for 19 months. The previous episode of “mowing the lawn” was in November 2012. There was a ceasefire. The ceasefire terms were that Hamas would not fire rockets—what they call rockets—and Israel would move to end the blockade and stop attacking what they call militants in Gaza. Hamas lived up to it. Israel concedes that. In April of this year, an event took place which horrified the Israeli government: A unity agreement was formed between Gaza and the West Bank, between Hamas and Fatah. Israel has been desperately trying to prevent that for a long time. There’s a background we could talk about, but it’s important. Anyhow, the unity agreement came. Israel was furious. They got even more upset when the U.S. more or less endorsed it, which is a big blow to them. They launched a rampage in the West Bank. What was used as a pretext was the brutal murder of three settler teenagers. There was a pretense that they were alive, though they knew they were dead. That allowed a huge—and, of course, they blamed it right away on Hamas. They have yet to produce a particle of evidence, and in fact their own highest leading authorities pointed out right away that the killers were probably from a kind of a rogue clan in Hebron, the Qawasmeh clan, which turns out apparently to be true. They’ve been a thorn in the sides of Hamas for years. They don’t follow their orders. But anyway, that gave the opportunity for a rampage in the West Bank, arresting hundreds of people, re-arresting many who had been released, mostly targeted on Hamas. Killings increased. Finally, there was a Hamas response: the so-called rocket attacks. And that gave the opportunity for “mowing the lawn” again.
6. Goodman: You said that Israel does this periodically, Noam Chomsky. Why do they do this periodically?
7. Chomsky: Because they want to maintain a certain situation. There’s a background. For over 20 years, Israel has been dedicated, with U.S. support, to separating Gaza from the West Bank. That’s in direct violation of the terms of the Oslo Accord 20 years ago, which declared that the West Bank and Gaza are a single territorial entity whose integrity must be preserved. But for rogue states, solemn agreements are just an invitation to do whatever you want. So Israel, with U.S. backing, has been committed to keeping them separate. And there’s a good reason for that. Just look at the map. If Gaza is the only outlet to the outside world for any eventual Palestinian entity, whatever it might be, the West Bank—if separated from Gaza, the West Bank is essentially imprisoned—Israel on one side, the Jordanian dictatorship on the other. Furthermore, Israel is systematically driving Palestinians out of the Jordan Valley, sinking wells, building settlements. They first call them military zones, then put in settlements—the usual story. That would mean that whatever cantons are left for Palestinians in the West Bank, after Israel takes what it wants and integrates it into Israel, they would be completely imprisoned. Gaza would be an outlet to the outside world, so therefore keeping them separate from one another is a high goal of policy, U.S. and Israeli policy. And the unity agreement threatened that. Threatened something else Israel has been claiming for years. One of its arguments for kind of evading negotiations is: How can they negotiate with the Palestinians when they’re divided? Well, OK, so if they’re not divided, you lose that argument. But the more significant one is simply the geostrategic one, which is what I described. So the unity government was a real threat, along with the tepid, but real, endorsement of it by the United States, and they immediately reacted.
8. González: And, Noam, what do you make of the—as you say, Israel seeks to maintain the status quo, while at the same time continuing to create a new reality on the ground of expanded settlements. What do you make of the continued refusal of one administration after another here in the United States, which officially is opposed to the settlement expansion, to refuse to call Israel to the table on this attempt to create its own reality on the ground?
9. Chomsky: Well, your phrase “officially opposed” is quite correct. But we can look at—you know, you have to distinguish the rhetoric of a government from its actions, and the rhetoric of political leaders from their actions. That should be obvious. So we can see how committed the U.S. is to this policy, easily. For example, in February 2011, the U.N. Security Council considered a resolution which called for—which called on Israel to terminate its expansion of settlements. Notice that the expansion of settlements is not really the issue. It’s the settlements. The settlements, the infrastructure development, all of this is in gross violation of international law. That’s been determined by the Security Council, the International Court of Justice. Practically every country in the world, outside of Israel, recognizes this. But this was a resolution calling for an end to expansion of settlements—official U.S. policy. What happened? Obama vetoed the resolution. That tells you something. Furthermore, the official statement to Israel about the settlement expansion is accompanied by what in diplomatic language is called a wink—a quiet indication that we don’t really mean it. So, for example, Obama’s latest condemnation of the recent, as he puts it, violence on all sides was accompanied by sending more military aid to Israel. Well, they can understand that. And that’s been true all along. In fact, when Obama came into office, he made the usual statements against settlement expansion. And his administration was—spokespersons were asked in press conferences whether Obama would do anything about it, the way the first George Bush did something—mild sanctions—to block settlement expansions. And the answer was, “No, this is just symbolic.” Well, that tells the Israeli government exactly what’s happening. And, in fact, if you look step by step, the military aid continues, the economic aid continues, the diplomatic protection continues, the ideological protection continues. By that, I mean framing the issues in ways that conform to Israeli demand. All of that continues, along with a kind of clucking of the tongue, saying, “Well, we really don’t like it, and it’s not helpful to peace.” Any government can understand that.
10. Goodman: I want to turn to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who spoke to foreign journalists yesterday.
11. Israel accepted and Hamas rejected the Egyptian ceasefire proposal of July 15th. And I want you to know that at that time the conflict had claimed some 185 lives. Only on Monday night did Hamas finally agree to that very same proposal, which went into effect yesterday morning. That means that 90 percent, a full 90 percent, of the fatalities in this conflict could have been avoided had Hamas not rejected then the ceasefire that it accepts now. Hamas must be held accountable for the tragic loss of life.
Noam Chomsky, can you respond to the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin
13. Chomsky: [inaudible] narrow response and a broad response. The narrow response is that, of course, as Netanyahu knows, that ceasefire proposal was arranged between the Egyptian military dictatorship and Israel, both of them very hostile to Hamas. It was not even communicated to Hamas. They learned about it through social media, and they were angered by that, naturally. They said they won’t accept it on those terms. Now, that’s the narrow response. The broad response is that 100 percent of the casualties and the destruction and the devastation and so on could have been avoided if Israel had lived up to the ceasefire agreement after the—from November 2012, instead of violating it constantly and then escalating the violation in the manner that I described, in order to block the unity government and to persist in their policy of—the policies of taking over what they want in the West Bank and keeping—separating it from Gaza, and keeping Gaza on what they’ve called a “diet,” Dov Weissglas’s famous comment. The man who negotiated the so-called withdrawal in 2005 pointed out that the purpose of the withdrawal is to end the discussion of any political settlement and to block any possibility of a Palestinian state, and meanwhile the Gazans will be kept on a diet, meaning just enough calories allowed so they don’t all die—because that wouldn’t look good for Israel’s fading reputation—but nothing more than that. And with its vaunted technical capacity, Israel, Israeli experts calculated precisely how many calories would be needed to keep the Gazans on their diet, under siege, blocked from export, blocked from import. Fishermen can’t go out to fish. The naval vessels drive them back to shore. A large part, probably over a third and maybe more, of Gaza’s arable land is barred from entry to Palestinians. It’s called a “barrier.” That’s the norm. That’s the diet. They want to keep them on that, meanwhile separated from the West Bank, and continue the ongoing project of taking over—I can describe the details, but it’s not obscure—taking over the parts of the West Bank that Israel intends—is integrating into Israel, and presumably will ultimately annex in some fashion, as long as the United States continues to support it and block international efforts to lead to a political settlement.
14. González: And, Noam, as this whole month has unfolded and these images of the carnage in Gaza have spread around the world, what’s your assessment of the impact on the already abysmal relationship that exists between the United States government and the Arab and Muslim world? I’m thinking especially of all the young Muslims and Arabs around the world who maybe had not been exposed to prior atrocities in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
15. Chomsky: Well, first of all, we have to distinguish between the Muslim and Arab populations and their governments—striking difference. The governments are mostly dictatorships. And when you read in the press that the Arabs support us on so-and-so, what is meant is the dictators support us, not the populations. The dictatorships are moderately supportive of what the U.S. and Israel are doing. That includes the military dictatorship in Egypt, a very brutal one; Saudi Arabian dictatorship. Saudi Arabia is the closest U.S. ally in the region, and it’s the most radical fundamentalist Islamic state in the world. It’s also spreading its Salafi-Wahhabi doctrines throughout the world, extremist fundamentalist doctrines. It’s been the leading ally of the United States for years, just as it was for Britain before it. They’ve both tended to prefer radical Islam to the danger of secular nationalism and democracy. And they are fairly supportive of—they don’t like—they hate Hamas. They have no interest in the Palestinians. They have to say things to kind of mollify their own populations, but again, rhetoric and action are different. So the dictatorships are not appalled by what’s happening. They probably are quietly cheering it. The populations, of course, are quite different, but that’s always been true. So, for example, on the eve of the Tahrir Square demonstrations in Egypt, which overthrew the Mubarak dictatorship, there were international polls taken in the United States by the leading polling agencies, and they showed very clearly that I think about 80 percent of Egyptians regarded the main threats to them as being Israel and the United States. And, in fact, condemnation of the United States and its policies were so extreme that even though they don’t like Iran, a majority felt that the region might be safer if Iran had nuclear weapons. Well, if you look over the whole polling story over the years, it kind of varies around something like that. But that’s the populations. And, of course, the Muslim populations elsewhere don’t like it, either. But it’s not just the Muslim populations. So, for example, there was a demonstration in London recently, which probably had hundreds of thousands of people—it was quite a huge demonstration—protesting the Israeli atrocities in Gaza. And that’s happening elsewhere in the world, too. It’s worth remembering that—you go back a couple decades, Israel was one of the most admired countries in the world. Now it’s one of the most feared and despised countries in the world. Israeli propagandists like to say, well, this is just anti-Semitism. But to the extent that there’s an anti-Semitic element, which is slight, it’s because of Israeli actions. The reaction is to the policies. And as long as Israel persists in these policies, that’s what’s going to happen. Actually, this has been pretty clear since the early 1970s. Actually, I’ve been writing about it since then, but it’s so obvious, that I don’t take any credit for that. In 1971, Israel made a fateful decision, the most fateful in its history, I think. President Sadat of Egypt offered Israel a full peace treaty, in return for withdrawal of Israel from the Egyptian Sinai. That was the Labor government, the so-called moderate Labor government at the time. They considered the offer and rejected it. They were planning to carry out extensive development programs in the Sinai, build a huge, big city on the Mediterranean, dozens of settlements, kibbutzim, others, big infrastructure, driving tens of thousands of Bedouins off the land, destroying the villages and so on. Those were the plans, beginning to implement them. And Israel made a decision to choose expansion over security. A treaty with Egypt would have meant security. That’s the only significant military force in the Arab world. And that’s been the policy ever since. When you pursue a policy of repression and expansion over security, there are things that are going to happen. There will be moral degeneration within the country. There will be increasing opposition and anger and hostility among populations outside the country. You may continue to get support from dictatorships and from, you know, the U.S. administration, but you’re going to lose the populations. And that has a consequence. You could predict—in fact, I and others did predict back in the '70s—that, just to quote myself, “those who call themselves supporters of Israel are actually supporters of its moral degeneration, international isolation, and very possibly ultimate destruction.” That's what’s—that’s the course that’s happening. It’s not the only example in history. There are many analogies drawn to South Africa, most of them pretty dubious, in my mind. But there’s one analogy which I think is pretty realistic, which isn’t discussed very much. It should be. In 1958, the South African Nationalist government, which was imposing the harsh apartheid regime, recognized that they were becoming internationally isolated. We know from declassified documents that in 1958 the South African foreign minister called in the American ambassador. And we have the conversation. He essentially told him, “Look, we’re becoming a pariah state. We’re losing all the—everyone is voting against us in the United Nations. We’re becoming isolated. But it really doesn’t matter, because you’re the only voice that counts. And as long as you support us, doesn’t really matter what the world thinks.” That wasn’t a bad prediction. If you look at what happened over the years, opposition to South African apartheid grew and developed. There was a U.N. arms embargo. Sanctions began. Boycotts began. It was so extreme by the 1980s that even the U.S. Congress was passing sanctions, which President Reagan had to veto. He was the last supporter of the apartheid regime. Congress actually reinstated the sanctions over his veto, and he then violated them. As late as 1988, Reagan, the last holdout, his administration declared the African National Congress, Mandela’s African National Congress, to be one of the more notorious terrorist groups in the world. So the U.S. had to keep supporting South Africa. It was supporting terrorist group UNITA in Angola. Finally, even the United States joined the rest of the world, and very quickly the apartheid regime collapsed. Now that’s not fully analogous to the Israel case by any means. There were other reasons for the collapse of apartheid, two crucial reasons. One of them was that there was a settlement that was acceptable to South African and international business, simple settlement: keep the socioeconomic system and allow—put it metaphorically—allow blacks some black faces in the limousines. That was the settlement, and that’s pretty much what’s been implemented, not totally. There’s no comparable settlement in Israel-Palestine. But a crucial element, not discussed here, is Cuba. Cuba sent military forces and tens of thousands of technical workers, doctors and teachers and others, and they drove the South African aggressors out of Angola, and they compelled them to abandon illegally held Namibia. And more than that, as in fact Nelson Mandela pointed out as soon as he got out of prison, the Cuban soldiers, who incidentally were black soldiers, shattered the myth of invincibility of the white supermen. That had a very significant effect on both black Africa and the white South Africa. It indicated to the South African government and population that they’re not going to be able to impose their hope of a regional support system, at least quiet system, that would allow them to pursue their operations inside South Africa and their terrorist activities beyond. And that was a major factor in the liberation of black Africa.
Noam, we have to break, and we’re going to come back to this discussion. We’re
talking to Noam Chomsky, world-renowned political dissident, linguist, author,
Institute Professor Emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This is Democracy
Now! We’ll be back with Professor Chomsky in a minute.
This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report.
I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González. Our guest is Professor Noam Chomsky. I
want to turn to President Obama speaking Wednesday at a news conference in
19. Obama: Long term, there has to be a recognition that Gaza cannot sustain itself permanently closed off from the world and incapable of providing some opportunity, jobs, economic growth for the population that lives there, particularly given how dense that population is, how young that population is. We’re going to have to see a shift in opportunity for the people of Gaza. I have no sympathy for Hamas. I have great sympathy for ordinary people who are struggling within Gaza.
That’s President Obama yesterday. Noam Chomsky, can you respond?
21. Chomsky: Well, as always, for all states and all political leaderships, we have to distinguish rhetoric from action. Any political leader can produce lovely rhetoric, even Hitler, Stalin, whoever you want. What we ask is: What are they doing? So exactly what does Obama suggest or carry out as a means to achieve the goal of ending the U.S.-backed Israeli siege, blockade of Gaza, which is creating this situation? What has it done in the past? What does it propose to do in the future? There are things that the U.S. could do very easily. Again, don’t want to draw the South African analogy too closely, but it is indicative. And it’s not the only case. The same happened, as you remember, in the Indonesia-East Timor case. When the United States, Clinton, finally told the Indonesian generals, “The game’s over,” they pulled out immediately. U.S. power is substantial. And in the case of Israel, it’s critical, because Israel relies on virtually unilateral U.S. support. There are plenty of things the U.S. can do to implement what Obama talked about. And the question is—and, in fact, when the U.S. gives orders, Israel obeys. That’s happened over and over again. That’s completely obvious why, given the power relationships. So things can be done. They were done by Bush two, by Clinton, by Reagan, and the U.S. could do them again. Then we’ll know whether those words were anything other than the usual pleasant rhetoric.
22. González: Talking about separating rhetoric from actions, Israel has always claimed that it no longer occupies Gaza. Democracy Now! recently spoke to Joshua Hantman, who’s a senior adviser to the Israeli ambassador to the United States and a former spokesperson for the Israeli Defense Ministry. And Hantman said, quote, “Israel actually left the Gaza Strip in 2005. We removed all of our settlements. We removed the IDF forces. We took out 10,000 Jews from their houses as a step for peace, because Israel wants peace and it extended its hand for peace.” Your response?
23. Chomsky: Well, several points. First of all, the United Nations, every country in the world, even the United States, regards Israel as the occupying power in Gaza—for a very simple reason: They control everything there. They control the borders, the land, sea, air. They determine what goes into Gaza, what comes out. They determine how many calories Gazan children need to stay alive, but not to flourish. That’s occupation, under international law, and no one questions it, outside of Israel. Even the U.S. agrees, their usual backer. That puts—with that, we end the discussion of whether they’re an occupying power or not. As for wanting peace, look back at that so-called withdrawal. Notice that it left Israel as the occupying power. By 2005, Israeli hawks, led by Ariel Sharon, pragmatic hawk, recognized that it just makes no sense for Israel to keep a few thousand settlers in devastated Gaza and devote a large part of the IDF, the Israeli military, to protecting them, and many expenses breaking up Gaza into separate parts and so on. Made no sense to do that. Made a lot more sense to take those settlers from their subsidized settlements in Gaza, where they were illegally residing, and send them off to subsidized settlements in the West Bank, in areas that Israel intends to keep—illegally, of course. That just made pragmatic sense. And there was a very easy way to do it. They could have simply informed the settlers in Gaza that on August 1st the IDF is going to withdrawal, and at that point they would have climbed into the lorries that are provided to them and gone off to their illegal settlements in the West Bank and, incidentally, the Golan Heights. But it was decided to construct what’s sometimes called a “national trauma.” So a trauma was constructed, a theater. It was just ridiculed by leading specialists in Israel, like the leading sociologist—Baruch Kimmerling just made fun of it. And trauma was created so you could have little boys, pictures of them pleading with the Israeli soldiers, “Don’t destroy my home!” and then background calls of “Never again.” That means “Never again make us leave anything,” referring to the West Bank primarily. And a staged national trauma. What made it particularly farcical was that it was a repetition of what even the Israeli press called “National Trauma ’82,” when they staged a trauma when they had to withdraw from Yamit, the city they illegally built in the Sinai. But they kept the occupation. They moved on. And I’ll repeat what Weissglas said. Recall, he was the negotiator with the United States, Sharon’s confidant. He said the purpose of the withdrawal is to end negotiations on a Palestinian state and Palestinian rights. This will end it. This will freeze it, with U.S. support. And then comes imposition of the diet on Gaza to keep them barely alive, but not flourishing, and the siege. Within weeks after the so-called withdrawal, Israel escalated the attacks on Gaza and imposed very harsh sanctions, backed by the United States. The reason was that a free election took place in Palestine, and it came out the wrong way. Well, Israel and the United States, of course, love democracy, but only if it comes out the way they want. So, the U.S. and Israel instantly imposed harsh sanctions. Israeli attacks, which really never ended, escalated. Europe, to its shame, went along. Then Israel and the United States immediately began planning for a military coup to overthrow the government. When Hamas pre-empted that coup, there was fury in both countries. The sanctions and military attacks increased. And then we’re on to what we discussed before: periodic episodes of “mowing the lawn.”
We only—Noam, we only have a minute.
26. Goodman: Very quickly, at this point, a lot of the U.S. media is saying the U.S. had been sidelined, it’s now all about Egypt doing this negotiation. What needs to happen right now? The ceasefire will end in a matter of hours, if it isn’t extended. What kind of truce needs to be accomplished here?
27. Chomsky: Well, for Israel, with U.S. backing, the current situation is a kind of a win-win situation. If Hamas agrees to extend the ceasefire, Israel can continue with its regular policies, which I described before: taking over what they want in the West Bank, separating it from Gaza, keeping the diet and so on. If Hamas doesn’t accept the ceasefire, Netanyahu can make another speech like the one you—the cynical speech you quoted earlier. The only thing that can break this is if the U.S. changes its policies, as has happened in other cases. I mentioned two: South Africa, Timor. There’s others. And that’s decisive. If there’s going to be a change, it will crucially depend on a change in U.S. policy here. For 40 years, the United States has been almost unilaterally backing Israeli rejectionism, refusal to entertain the overwhelming international consensus on a two-state settlement.
Noam, we have to leave it there, but we’re going to continue our conversation
post-show, and we’re going to post it online at democracynow.org. Noam Chomsky,
world-renowned political dissident, linguist and author, professor emeritus at
the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
This is Democracy Now!,
democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. And we’re
continuing our conversation with Noam Chomsky, world-renowned political
dissident, linguist, author, has written many books, among them, one of the
more recent books, Gaza in Crisis. I want to turn right now to Bob Schieffer, the
host of CBS’s Face the
Nation. This is how he closed a recent show.
In the Middle East, the Palestinian people
find themselves in the grip of a terrorist group that is embarked on a strategy
to get its own children killed in order to build sympathy for its cause—a
strategy that might actually be working, at least in some quarters. Last week I
found a quote of many years ago by Golda Meir, one of Israel’s early leaders,
which might have been said yesterday: “We can forgive the Arabs for killing our
children,” she said, “but we can never forgive them for forcing us to kill their
Goodman: That was CBS journalist Bob Schieffer. Noam
Chomsky, can you respond?
32. Chomsky: Well, we don’t really have to listen to CBS, because we can listen directly to the Israeli propaganda agencies, which he’s quoting. It’s a shameful moment for U.S. media when it insists on being subservient to the grotesque propaganda agencies of a violent, aggressive state. As for the comment itself, the Israel comment which he—propaganda comment which he quoted, I guess maybe the best comment about that was made by the great Israeli journalist Amira Hass, who just described it as “sadism masked as compassion.” That’s about the right characterization.
33. Goodman: I wanted to also ask you about the U.N.’s role and the U.S.—vis-à-vis, as well, the United States. This is the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay, criticizing the U.S. for its role in the Israeli assault on Gaza.
They have not only provided the heavy
weaponry, which is now being used by Israel in Gaza, but they’ve also provided
almost $1 billion in providing the Iron Domes to protect Israelis from the
rocket attacks, but no such protection has been provided to Gazans against the
shelling. So I am reminding the United States that it’s a party to
international humanitarian law and human rights law.
35. Goodman: That was Navi Pillay, the U.N. high commissioner or human rights. Noam, on Friday, this was the point where the death toll for Palestinians had exceeded Operation Cast Lead; it had passed 1,400. President Obama was in the White House, and he held a news conference. He didn’t raise the issue of Gaza in the news conference, but he was immediately asked about Gaza, and he talked about—he reaffirmed the U.S. support for Israel, said that the resupply of ammunition was happening, that the $220 million would be going for an expanded Iron Dome. But then the weekend took place, yet another attack on a U.N. shelter, on one of the schools where thousands of Palestinians had taken refuge, and a number of them were killed, including children. And even the U.S. then joined with the U.N. in criticizing what Israel was doing. Can you talk about what the U.S. has done and if you really do see a shift right now?
36. Chomsky: Well, let’s start with what the U.S. has done, and continue with the comments with the U.N. Human Rights Commission. Right at that time, the time of the quote you gave over the radio—that you gave before, there was a debate in the Human Rights Commission about whether to have an investigation—no action, just an investigation—of what had happened in Gaza, an investigation of possible violations of human rights.
“Possible” is kind of a joke. It was passed
with one negative vote. Guess who. Obama voted against an investigation, while he was
giving these polite comments. That’s action. The United States continues
to provide, as Pillay pointed out, the critical, the decisive support for the
atrocities. When what’s called Israeli jet planes bomb defenseless targets in
Gaza, that’s U.S. jet planes with Israeli pilots. And
the same with the high-tech munition and so on and so forth. So this is, again,
sadism masked as compassion. Those are the actions.
37. Goodman: What about opinion in the United States? Can you talk about the role that it plays? We saw some certainly remarkable changes. MSNBC had the reporter Ayman Mohyeldin, who had been at Al Jazeera, very respected. He had been, together with Sherine Tadros, in 2008 the only Western reporters in Gaza covering Operation Cast Lead, tremendous experience in the area. And he was pulled out by MSNBC. But because there was a tremendous response against this, with—I think what was trending was “Let Ayman report”—he was then brought back in. So there was a feeling that people wanted to get a sense of what was happening on the ground. There seemed to be some kind of opening. Do you sense a difference in the American population, how—the attitude toward what’s happening in Israel and the Occupied Territories?
38. Chomsky: Very definitely. It’s been happening over some years. There was a kind of a point of inflection that increased after Cast Lead, which horrified many people, and it’s happening again now. You can see it everywhere. Take, say, The New York Times. The New York Times devoted a good part of their op-ed page to a Gaza diary a couple of days ago, which was heart-rending and eloquent. They’ve had strong op-eds condemning extremist Israeli policies. That’s new, and it reflects something that’s happening in the country. You can see it in polls, especially among young people. If you look at the polling results, the population below 30, roughly, by now has shifted substantially. You can see it on college campuses. I mean, I see it personally. I’ve been giving talks on these things for almost 50 years. I used to have police protection, literally, even at my own university. The meetings were broken up violently, you know, enormous protest. Within the past, roughly, decade, that’s changed substantially by now that Palestinian solidarity is maybe the biggest issue on campus. Huge audiences. There isn’t even—hardly get a hostile question. That’s a tremendous change. That’s strikingly among younger people, but they become older. However, there’s something we have to remember about the United States: It’s not a democracy; it’s a plutocracy. There’s study after study that comes out in mainstream academic political science which shows what we all know or ought to know, that political decisions are made by a very small sector of extreme privilege and wealth, concentrated capital. For most of the population, their opinions simply don’t matter in the political system. They’re essentially disenfranchised. I can give the details if you like, but that’s basically the story. Now, public opinion can make a difference. Even in dictatorships, the public can’t be ignored, and in a partially democratic society like this, even less so. So, ultimately, this will make a difference. And how long “ultimately” is, well, that’s up to us. We’ve seen it before. Take, say, the East Timor case, which I mentioned. For 25 years, the United States strongly supported the vicious Indonesian invasion and massacre, virtual genocide. It was happening right through 1999, as the Indonesian atrocities increased and escalated. After Dili, the capital city, was practically evacuated after Indonesian attacks, the U.S. was still supporting it. Finally, in mid-September 1999, under considerable international and also domestic pressure, Clinton quietly told the Indonesian generals, “It’s finished.” And they had said they’d never leave. They said, “This is our territory.” They pulled out within days and allowed a U.N. peacekeeping force to enter without Indonesian military resistance. Well, you know, that’s a dramatic indication of what can be done. South Africa is a more complex case but has similarities, and there are others. Sooner or later, it’s possible—and that’s really up to us—that domestic pressure will compel the U.S. government to join the world on this issue, and that will be a decisive change.
39. Goodman: Noam, I wanted to ask you about your recent piece for The Nation on Israel-Palestine and BDS. You were critical of the effectiveness of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. One of the many responses came from Yousef Munayyer, the executive director of the Jerusalem Fund and its educational program, the Palestine Center. He wrote, quote, “Chomsky’s criticism of BDS seems to be that it hasn’t changed the power dynamic yet, and thus that it can’t. There is no doubt the road ahead is a long one for BDS, but there is also no doubt the movement is growing ... All other paths toward change, including diplomacy and armed struggle, have so far proved ineffective, and some have imposed significant costs on Palestinian life and livelihood.” Could you respond?
40. Chomsky: Well, actually, I did respond. You can find it on The Nation website. But in brief, far from being critical of BDS, I was strongly supportive of it. One of the oddities of what’s called the BDS movement is that they can’t—many of the activists just can’t see support as support unless it becomes something like almost worship: repeat the catechism. If you take a look at that article, it very strongly supported these tactics. In fact, I was involved in them and supporting them before the BDS movement even existed. They’re the right tactics. But it should be second nature to activists—and it usually is—that you have to ask yourself, when you conduct some tactic, when you pursue it, what the effect is going to be on the victims. You don’t pursue a tactic because it makes you feel good. You pursue it because it’s going—you estimate that it’ll help the victims. And you have to make choices. This goes way back. You know, say, back during the Vietnam War, there were debates about whether you should resort to violent tactics, say Weathermen-style tactics. You could understand the motivation—people were desperate—but the Vietnamese were strongly opposed. And many of us, me included, were also opposed, not because the horrors don’t justify some strong action, but because the consequences would be harm to the victims. The tactics would increase support for the violence, which in fact is what happened. Those questions arise all the time. Unfortunately, the Palestinian solidarity movements have been unusual in their unwillingness to think these things through. That was pointed out recently again by Raja Shehadeh, the leading figure in—lives in Ramallah, a longtime supporter, the founder of Al-Haq, the legal organization, a very significant and powerful figure. He pointed out that the Palestinian leadership has tended to focus on what he called absolutes, absolute justice—this is the absolute justice that we want—and not to pay attention to pragmatic policies. That’s been very obvious for decades. It used to drive people like Eqbal Ahmad, the really committed and knowledgeable militant—used to drive him crazy. They just couldn’t listen to pragmatic questions, which are what matter for success in a popular movement and a nationalist movement. And the ones who understand that can succeed; the ones who don’t understand it can’t. If you talk about—
41. Goodman: What choices do you feel that the BDS movement, that activists should make?
42. Chomsky: Well, they’re very simple, very clear. In fact, I discussed them in the article. Those actions that have been directed against the occupation have been quite successful, very successful. Most of them don’t have anything to do with the BDS movement. So take, say, one of the most extreme and most successful is the European Union decision, directive, to block any connection to any institution, governmental or private, that has anything to do with the Occupied Territories. That’s a pretty strong move. That’s the kind of move that was taken with regard to South Africa. Just a couple of months ago, the Presbyterian Church here called for divestment from any multinational corporation that’s involved in any way in the occupation. And there’s been case after case like that. That makes perfect sense. There are also—so far, there haven’t been any sanctions, so BDS is a little misleading. It’s BD, really. But there could be sanctions. And there’s an obvious way to proceed. There has been for years, and has plenty of support. In fact, Amnesty International called for it during the Cast Lead operations. That’s an arms embargo. For the U.S. to impose an arms embargo, or even to discuss it, would be a major issue, major contribution. That’s the most important of the possible sanctions. And there’s a basis for it. U.S. arms to Israel are in violation of U.S. law, direct violation of U.S. law. You look at U.S. foreign assistance law, it bars any military assistance to any one country, unit, whatever, engaged in consistent human rights violations. Well, you know, Israel’s violation of human rights violations is so extreme and consistent that you hardly have to argue about it. That means that U.S. aid to Israel is in—military aid, is in direct violation of U.S. law. And as Pillay pointed out before, the U.S. is a high-contracting party to the Geneva Conventions, so it’s violating its own extremely serious international commitments by not imposing—working to impose the Geneva Conventions. That’s an obligation for the high-contracting parties, like the U.S. And that means to impose—to prevent a violation of international humanitarian law, and certainly not to abet it. So the U.S. is both in violation of its commitments to international humanitarian law and also in violation of U.S. domestic law. And there’s some understanding of that.
43. Goodman: I wanted to get your response, Noam, to Nicholas Kristof on the issue of Palestinian nonviolence. Writing in The New York Times last month, Kristof wrote, quote, “Palestinian militancy has accomplished nothing but increasing the misery of the Palestinian people. If Palestinians instead turned more to huge Gandhi-style nonviolence resistance campaigns, the resulting videos would reverberate around the world and Palestine would achieve statehood and freedom.” Noam Chomsky, your response?
44. Chomsky: Well, first of all, that’s a total fabrication. Palestinian nonviolence has been going on for a long time, very significant nonviolent actions. I haven’t seen the reverberations in Kristof’s columns, for example, or anywhere. I mean, there is among popular movements, but not what he’s describing. There’s also a good deal of cynicism in those comments. What he should be doing is preaching nonviolence to the United States, the leading perpetrator of violence in the world. Hasn’t been reported here, but an international poll last December—Gallup here and its counterpart in England, the leading polling agencies—it was an international poll of public opinion. One of the questions that was asked is:
Which country is the greatest threat to world peace? Guess
who was first. Nobody even close. The United States was way in the lead.
Far behind was Pakistan, and that was probably because mostly of the Indian
vote. Well, that’s what Nicholas Kristof should be commenting on. He should be
calling for nonviolence where he is, where we are, where you and I are. That
would make a big difference in the world. And, of course, nonviolence in our
client states, like Israel, where we provide directly the means for the
violence, or Saudi Arabia, extreme, brutal, fundamentalist state, where we send
them tens of billions of dollars of military aid, and on and on, in ways that
are not discussed. That would make sense. It’s easy to
preach nonviolence to some victim somewhere, saying, “You shouldn’t be violent.
We’ll be as violent as we like, but you not be violent.” That aside, the recommendation is correct, and in
fact it’s been a recommendation of people dedicated to Palestinian rights for
many years. Eqbal
Ahmad, who I mentioned, 40 years—you know, his background, he was active
in the Algerian resistance, a long, long history of both very acute political
analysis and direct engagement in Third World struggles, he was very close to
the PLO—consistently urged this, as many, many people did, me included. And, in
fact, there’s been plenty of it. Not enough. But as I say, it’s very easy to recommend
to victims, “You be nice guys.” That’s cheap. [Samantha Powers. Woody Allen.
George Clooney. Steven Soderbergh.] Even if it’s correct, it’s
matters is what we say about ourselves. Are we going to be nice guys?
That’s the important thing, particularly when it’s the United States, the
country which, quite rightly, is regarded by the—internationally as the leading
threat to world peace, and the decisive threat in the Israeli case.
45. Goodman: Noam, Mohammed Suliman, a Palestinian human rights worker in Gaza, wrote in The Huffington Post during the Israeli assault, quote, “The reality is that if Palestinians stop resisting, Israel won’t stop occupying, as its leaders repeatedly affirm. The besieged Jews of the Warsaw ghetto had a motto 'to live and die in dignity.' As I sit in my own besieged ghetto,” he writes, “I think how Palestinians have honored this universal value. We live in dignity and we die in dignity, refusing to accept subjugation. We’re tired of war. ... But I also can no longer tolerate the return to a deeply unjust status quo. I can no longer agree to live in this open-air prison.” Your response to what Mohammed Suliman wrote?
46. Chomsky: Well, several points again. First, about the Warsaw Ghetto, there’s a very interesting debate going on right now in Israel in the Hebrew press as to whether the Warsaw Ghetto uprising was justified. It began with an article, I think by a survivor, who went through many details and argued that the uprising, which was sort of a rogue element, he said, actually seriously endangered the Jews of the—surviving Jews in the ghetto and harmed them. Then came responses, and there’s a debate about it. But that’s exactly the kind of question you want to ask all the time: What’s going to be the effect of the action on the victims? It’s not a trivial question in the case of the Warsaw Ghetto. Obviously, maybe the Nazis are the extreme in brutality in human history, and you have to surely sympathize and support the ghetto inhabitants and survivors and the victims, of course. But nevertheless, the tactical question arises. This is not open. And it arises here, too, all the time, if you’re serious about concern for the victims. But his general point is accurate, and it’s essentially what I was trying to say before. Israel wants quiet, wants the Palestinians to be nice and quiet and nonviolent, the way Nicholas Kristof urges.
And then what will Israel do? We
don’t have to guess. It’s what they have been doing, and they’ll continue, as
long as there’s no resistance to it. What
they’re doing is, briefly, taking over whatever they want, whatever they see as
of value in the West Bank, leaving Palestinians in essentially unviable
cantons, pretty much imprisoned; separating the West Bank from Gaza in
violation of the solemn commitments of the Oslo Accords; keeping Gaza under
siege and on a diet; meanwhile, incidentally, taking over the Golan Heights,
already annexed in violation of explicit Security Council orders; vastly
expanding Jerusalem way beyond any historical size, annexing it in violation of
Security Council orders; huge infrastructure projects, which make it possible
for people living in the nice hills of the West Bank to get to Tel Aviv in a
few minutes without seeing any Arabs. That’s what they’ll continue
doing, just as they have been, as long as the United States supports it. That’s
the decisive point, and that’s what we should be focusing on. We’re here. We
can do things here. And that happens to be of critical significance in this
case. That’s going to be—it’s not the only factor, but it’s the determinative
factor in what the outcome will be.
47. Goodman: Yet you have Congress—you’re talking about American population changing opinion—unanimously passing a resolution in support of Israel. Unanimously.
48. Chomsky: That’s right, because—and that’s exactly what we have to combat, by organization and action. Take South Africa again. It wasn’t until the 1980s that Congress began to pass sanctions. As I said, Reagan vetoed them and then violated them when they were passed over his veto, but at least they were passing them. But that’s decades after massive protests were developing around the world. In fact, BDS-style tactics—there was never a BDS movement—BDS-style tactics began to be carried out on a popular level in the United States beginning in the late '70s, but really picking up in the ’80s. That's decades after large-scale actions of that kind were being taken elsewhere. And ultimately, that had an effect. Well, we’re not there yet. You have to recall—it’s important to recall that by the time Congress was passing sanctions against South Africa, even the American business community, which really is decisive at determining policy, had pretty much turned against apartheid. Just wasn’t worth it for them. And as I said, the agreement that was finally reached was acceptable to them—difference from the Israeli case. We’re not there now. Right now Israel is one of the top recipients of U.S. investment. Warren Buffett, for example, recently bought—couple of billion dollars spent on some factory in Israel, an installment, and said that this is the best place for investment outside the United States. Intel is setting up its major new generation chip factory there. Military industry is closely linked to Israel. All of this is quite different from the South Africa case. And we have to work, as it’ll take a lot of work to get there, but it has to be done.
49. Goodman: And yet, Noam, you say that the analogy between Israel’s occupation of the terrories and apartheid South Africa is a dubious one. Why?
50. Chomsky: Many reasons. Take, say, the term “apartheid.” In the Occupied Territories, what Israel is doing is much worse than apartheid. To call it apartheid is a gift to Israel, at least if by “apartheid” you mean South African-style apartheid. What’s happening in the Occupied Territories is much worse. There’s a crucial difference. The South African Nationalists needed the black population. That was their workforce. It was 85 percent of the workforce of the population, and that was basically their workforce. They needed them. They had to sustain them. The bantustans were horrifying, but South Africa did try to sustain them. They didn’t put them on a diet. They tried to keep them strong enough to do the work that they needed for the country. They tried to get international support for the bantustans. The Israeli relationship to the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories is totally different. They just don’t want them. They want them out, or at least in prison. And they’re acting that way. That’s a very striking difference, which means that the apartheid analogy, South African apartheid, to the Occupied Territories is just a gift to Israeli violence. It’s much worse than that. If you look inside Israel, there’s plenty of repression and discrimination. I’ve written about it extensively for decades. But it’s not apartheid. It’s bad, but it’s not apartheid. So the term, I just don’t think is applicable.
51. Goodman: I wanted to get your response to Giora Eiland, a former Israeli national security adviser. Speaking to The New York Times, Eiland said, quote, “You cannot win against an effective guerrilla organization when on the one hand, you are fighting them, and on the other hand, you continue to supply them with water and food and gas and electricity. Israel should have declared a war against the de facto state of Gaza, and if there is misery and starvation in Gaza, it might lead the other side to make such hard decisions.” Noam Chomsky, if you could respond to this?
52. Chomsky: That’s basically the debate within the Israeli top political echelon: Should we follow Dov Weissglas’s position of maintaining them on a diet of bare survival, so you make sure children don’t get chocolate bars, but you allow them to have, say, Cheerios in the morning? Should we—
53. Goodman: Actually, Noam, can you explain that, because when you’ve talked about it before, it sort of sounds—this diet sounds like a metaphor. But can you explain what you meant when you said actual diet? Like, you’re talking number of calories. You’re actually talking about whether kids can have chocolate?
54. Chomsky: Israel has—Israeli experts have calculated in detail exactly how many calories, literally, Gazans need to survive. And if you look at the sanctions that they impose, they’re grotesque. I mean, even John Kerry condemned them bitterly. They’re [fucking] sadistic. Just enough calories to survive. And, of course, it is partly metaphoric, because it means just enough material coming in through the tunnels so that they don’t totally die. Israel restricts medicines, but you have to allow a little trickle in. [Soderbergh] When I was there right before the November 2012 assault, visited the Khan Younis hospital, and the director showed us that there’s—they don’t even have simple medicines, but they have something. And the same is true with all aspects of it. Keep them on a diet, literally. And the reason is—very simple, and they pretty much said it: “If they die, it’s not going to look good for Israel. We may claim that we’re not the occupying power, but the rest of the world doesn’t agree. Even the United States doesn’t agree. We are the occupying power. And if we kill off the population under occupation, not going to look good.” It’s not the 19th century, when, as the U.S. expanded over what’s its national territory, it pretty much exterminated the indigenous population. Well, by 19th century’s imperial standards, that was unproblematic. This is a little different today. You can’t exterminate the population in the territories that you occupy. That’s the dovish position, Weissglas. The hawkish position is Eiland, which you quoted: Let’s just kill them off.
55. Goodman: And who do you think is going to prevail, as I speak to you in the midst of this ceasefire?
56. Chomsky: The Weissglas position will prevail, because Israel just—you know, it’s already becoming an international pariah and internationally hated. If it went on to pursue Eiland’s recommendations, even the United States wouldn’t be able to support it.
57. Goodman: You know, interestingly, while the Arab countries, most of them, have not spoken out strongly against what Israel has done in Gaza, Latin American countries, one after another, from Brazil to Venezuela to Bolivia, have. A number of them have recalled their ambassadors to Israel. I believe Bolivian President Evo Morales called Israel a “terrorist state.” Can you talk about Latin America and its relationship with Israel?
58. Chomsky: Yeah, just remember the Arab countries means the Arab dictators, our friends. It doesn’t mean the Arab populations, our enemies. But what you said about Latin America is very significant. Not long ago, Latin America was what was called the backyard: They did whatever we said. In strategic planning, very little was said about Latin America, because they were under our domination. If we don’t like something that happens, we install a military dictatorship or carry—back huge massacres and so on. But basically they do what we say. Last 10 or 15 years, that’s changed. And it’s a historic change. For the first time in 500 years, since the conquistadors, Latin America is moving toward degree of independence of imperial domination and also a degree of integration, which is critically important. And what you just described is one striking example of it. In the entire world, as far as I know, only a few Latin American countries have taken an honorable position on this issue: Brazil, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, El Salvador have withdrawn ambassadors in protest. They join Bolivia and Venezuela, which had done it even earlier in reaction to other atrocities. That’s unique. And it’s not the only example. There was a very striking example, I guess maybe a year or so ago. The Open Society Forum did a study of support for rendition. Rendition, of course, is the most extreme form of torture. What you do is take people, people you don’t like, and you send them to your favorite dictatorship so they’ll be tortured. Grotesque. That was the CIA program of extraordinary rendition. The study was: Who took part in it? Well, of course, the Middle East dictatorships did—you know, Syria, Assad, Mubarak and others—because that’s where you sent them to be tortured—Gaddafi. They took part. Europe, almost all of it participated. England, Sweden, other countries permitted, abetted the transfer of prisoners to torture chambers to be grotesquely tortured. In fact, if you look over the world, there was only really one exception: The Latin American countries refused to participate. Now, that is pretty remarkable, for one thing, because it shows their independence. But for another, while they were under U.S. control, they were the torture center of the world—not long ago, a couple of decades ago. That’s a real change. And by now, if you look at hemispheric conferences, the United States and Canada are isolated. The last major hemispheric conference couldn’t come to a consensus decision on the major issues, because the U.S. and Canada didn’t agree with the rest of the hemisphere. The major issues were admission of Cuba into the hemispheric system and steps towards decriminalization of drugs. That’s a terrible burden on the Latin Americans. The problem lies in the United States. And the Latin American countries, even the right-wing ones, want to free themselves of that. U.S. and Canada wouldn’t go along. These are very significant changes in world affairs.
59. Goodman: I wanted to turn to Charlie Rose interviewing the Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal. This was in July. Meshaal called for an end to Israel’s occupation of Gaza.
60. [translated] This is not a prerequisite. Life is not a prerequisite. Life is a right for our people in Palestine. Since 2006, when the world refused the outcomes of the elections, our people actually lived under the siege of eight years. This is a collective punishment. We need to lift the siege. We have to have a port. We have to have an airport. This is the first message. The second message: In order to stop the bloodletting, we need to look at the underlying causes. We need to look at the occupation. We need to stop the occupation. Netanyahu doesn’t take heed of our rights. And Mr. Kerry, months ago, tried to find a window through the negotiations in order to meet our target: to live without occupation, to reach our state. Netanyahu has killed our hope or killed our dream, and he killed the American initiative.
61. Goodman: That is the Hamas leader, Khaled Meshaal.
these last few minutes we have left, Noam Chomsky, talk about the demands of
Hamas and what Khaled Meshaal just said.
62. Chomsky: Well, he was basically reiterating what he and Ismail Haniyeh and other Hamas spokespersons have been saying for a long time. In fact, if you go back to 1988, when Hamas was formed, even before they became a functioning organization, their leadership, Sheikh Yassin—who was assassinated by Israel—others, offered settlement proposals, which were turned down. And it remains pretty much the same. By now, it’s quite overt. Takes effort to fail to see it. You can read it in The Washington Post. What they propose is: They accept the international consensus on a two-state settlement. They say, “Yes, let’s have a two-state settlement on the international border.” They do not—they say they don’t go on to say, “We’ll recognize Israel,” but they say, “Yes, let’s have a two-state settlement and a very long truce, maybe 50 years. And then we’ll see what happens.” Well, that’s been their proposal all along. That’s far more forthcoming than any proposal in Israel. But that’s not the way it’s presented here. What you read is, all they’re interested in is destruction of Israel. What you hear is Bob Schieffer’s type of repetition of the most vulgar Israeli propaganda. But that has been their position. It’s not that they’re nice people—like, I wouldn’t vote for them—but that is their position.
63. Goodman: Six billion dollars of damage in Gaza right now. About 1,900 Palestinians are dead, not clear actually how many, as the rubble hasn’t all been dug out at this point. Half a million refugees. You’ve got something like 180,000 in the schools, the shelters. And what does that mean for schools, because they’re supposed to be starting in a few weeks, when the Palestinians are living in these schools, makeshift shelters? So, what is the reality on the ground that happens now, as these negotiations take place in Egypt?
64. Chomsky: Well, there is a kind of a slogan that’s been used for years: Israel destroys, Gazans rebuild, Europe pays. It’ll probably be something like that—until the next episode of “mowing the lawn.”
And what will happen—unless U.S. policy changes, what’s very
likely to happen is that Israel will continue with the policies it has been
reason for them to stop, from their point of view. And it’s what I
said: take what you want in the West Bank, integrate it into Israel, leave the
Palestinians there in unviable cantons, separate it from Gaza, keep Gaza on
that diet, under siege—and, of course, control, keep the West Golan Heights—and
try to develop a greater Israel. This is not for security reasons,
incidentally. That’s been understood by the Israeli leadership for decades.
Back around 1970, I suppose, Ezer Weizman, later the—general, Air Force
general, later president, pointed out, correctly, that taking over the
territories does not improve our security situation—in fact, probably makes it
worse—but, he said, it allows Israel to live at the scale and with the quality
that we now enjoy. In other words, we can be a rich, powerful, expansionist
65. Goodman: But you hear repeatedly, Hamas has in its charter a call for the destruction of Israel. And how do you guarantee that these thousands of rockets that threaten the people of Israel don’t continue?
66. Chomsky: Very simple. First of all, Hamas charter means practically nothing. The only people who pay attention to it are Israeli propagandists, who love it. It was a charter put together by a small group of people under siege, under attack in 1988. And it’s essentially meaningless. There are charters that mean something, but they’re not talked about. So, for example, the electoral program of Israel’s governing party, Likud, states explicitly that there can never be a Palestinian state west of the Jordan River. And they not only state it in their charter, that’s a call for the destruction of Palestine, explicit call for it. And they don’t only have it in their charter, you know, their electoral program, but they implement it. That’s quite different from the Hamas charter.